So, Peter, what have you been shooting recently?
I do a lot of shooting at night. One of my favorite subjects is the moon in relation to landmarks on the ground. One of my photos of the crescent moon and Statue of Liberty is being featured in a national photography magazine next month. And I recently had a photo of an amazing sunset behind the Statue of Liberty featured on The Weather Channel's prime time broadcast. My mom loved that one!
What photo are you most proud of taking?I am proud of all my photos. I look at them as my children: I love them all equally - and eventually hope they will move out and find a good home someplace else (as in being sold to a customer!). That said, I have a photo of the moon atop the spire of the Empire State Building that was a finalist in the 2015 Empire State Building Photo Contest. That photo took weeks of planning and execution and a willingness to show up at the same spot with 40lbs of photography gear on two consecutive nights (the first night clouded over so I missed it).
Also the photo of the Statue of Liberty and crescent moon that I mentioned earlier is being featured in a national photography magazine next month. I was also lucky enough to have the image appear on ABC 7 NY TV, prompting the anchor to comment, "sometimes a photo just takes your breath away." It's just a gorgeous photo in every way and took lots of planning and execution. That's one thing I would say to people who may not do a lot of photography: all my photos require significant planning and preparation, as well as a willingness to go places most other people won't. It's never a question of just showing up and getting lucky when I get a shot (although luck, especially in the form of favorable weather, is helpful.)
What was the first camera you owned?I purchased my first real camera in 2004: a Canon Rebel XT. It was the second digital Rebel from Canon, and it was a game changer for me. There was something about looking through the optical viewfinder and seeing what I was about shoot that was really exciting. I probably took 75,000 photos with that camera and still use many of them in my professional portfolio.
- You don't need the latest or most expensive equipment to take good photos. Stick to a budget and maximize what you already have.
- Most of the gear out there (cameras, lenses and accessories) is just so good these days. They are engineering marvels.
What photographer(s) most influenced you?I'm really most influenced by my peers. It is the photographers I see everyday on Instagram, Facebook, etc., that really inspire me to get out there and shoot. I so appreciate their creativity and talent. That's what constantly pushes me to be a better photographer. Also, I am a co-admin on a Facebook group of 1,500 New Jersey-based photographers and I love to see new people come into the group who are just starting out and watch them learn and grow as photographers. It is so exciting to see them progress. Many of them are now better photographers than me!
If you could have any photograph on your wall, what would it be?My own. I really love my work and am very proud of all the photos I have made over the years.
Do you have any advice you would like to pass on to other photographers?Well I think the most important thing is to believe in yourself. It sounds so cliche at this point, but I can say from my own experience, without some level of confidence and belief in yourself its hard to excel at anything in life. Other people can believe in you, but if you don't believe in yourself it won't be enough. Now, obviously, confidence is gained as you learn and improve as a photographer, but if you can set out to be your own best friend early on, it will make the journey to becoming an accomplished photographer go that much quicker. Not every photo I take is great, but I no longer beat myself up or put myself down for taking a poor one; it's all part of the learning process. If you don't believe in yourself, it is easy to give up on anything before you realize your full potential.
What camera do you use on an everyday basis?I am currently a Canon shooter. I have an EOS 6D and 70D. But as I said earlier, the cameras and lenses out there today from just about every name manufacturer can serve most new photographers really well. Set your budget and stick to it. Consider buying used or refurbished if money is tight. And take care of you gear. I routinely re-sell lenses and other items for 75% of what I paid several years later because I take good care of my stuff.
Is there any piece of equipment/lens that is essential for your work?As I've kind of been saying, I am less gear oriented that I used to be. I do a lot of product photography (www.greatproductshots.com) and corporate headshots (www.superstarheadshots.com) to pay the bills, and I could probably do 85% of that work with my Canon 70D and 15-85 IS lens. I can also do landscapes and timelapses with that combination. On my full frame camera, my go-to lenses are a 17-40 (landscape) and a 24-105 (portraits). I use a 70-200 for many portrait-oriented subjects, in addition to a 85 F1.8 and 35 F2 prime lenses. I recently picked up the Sigma 150-600 C OS lens. It's a great lens for wildlife, shots of the moon, and even model shoots. I recently shot a swimsuit model down at the Jersey Shore and used that lens for about 1/2 my shots. They look great, but beware: it is a pretty big and heavy lens!